June 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of annual LGBTQ+ Pride traditions. The first Pride march was held in New York City on June 28, 1970. The very first U.S. Gay Pride march was meant to give the community a chance to gather together. Estimates state there were upwards of 3-5,000 marchers in NYC. Since 1970, the LGBTQ+ community and supporters have continued to gather in June to march with Pride and demonstrate equal rights. Today, the number of marchers is in the millions and has spread nationwide. The increasing popularity and visibility of Pride events can be attributed to greater levels of acceptance towards the community.
Pride also marks an opportunity for the community to come together, take stock, and recognize the advances and setbacks made in the past year. Although this year we are not able to come together as we have in the past, we are still celebrating, demonstrating, and acknowledging the history and growth the community has made.
Equal Opportunity Employment – In 1998, President Bill Clinton issues an Executive Order expanding equal opportunity employment by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Hate Crimes Prevention Act – In October 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This allows the federal government to provide assistance in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. Secondly, it ensures crimes that target victims because of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability are all covered by the law.
Marriage Equality – In June 2015, a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court of the United States amended the 14th Amendment to require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize the marriages lawfully performed in other jurisdictions. This means marriage equality is now the law of the land in ALL 50 states. Prior to this day, only 37 states had legalized marriage for same-sex couples.
Battles still being fought include:
Violence – Hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals are still shockingly prevalent across the country. In 2015, nearly one in five hate crimes committed was due to sexual orientation and another 2% of crimes were committed because of gender identity.
Unequal Healthcare – The LGBTQ community continues to fight for better access to healthcare and for equal treatment by doctors and health insurance companies that block an individual’s access to the care they need. In 37 states, insurance companies can discriminate based on sexual and gender identity.
Criminal Justice – Queer individuals face high rates of discrimination in prison, where trans inmates have a particularly grueling history of abuse. Some are even put in solitary confinement allegedly for their own protection.
Acceptance – Some battles just can’t be won in a courtroom or by changes in the law. The LGBTQ community still faces discrimination, fear, and hate, which results in physical, mental, and emotional harm.
This June, it’s important to celebrate how far the US has come in recognizing gay rights – and to be proud of that fact – but only if we also remember how far we still have to go to ensure that equal rights and the dignity of the LGBTQ community are recognized under the law. America has come a long way in protecting the rights of gay, bi, and trans citizens but there’s still work to do. This June, let’s remember to start with acceptance.